Time Stands Still Review: Chicago's Steppenwolf Theatre Explores Love, War and More.

Time Stands Still Review: Chicago's Steppenwolf Theatre Explores Love, War and More.
Randall Newsome, Steppenwolf ensemble member Sally Murphy, Kristina Valada-Viars and Steppenwolf ensemble member Francis Guinan. Credit: Michael Brosilow.

Chicago, Wednesday, February 1, 2012.  Steppenwolf Theatre frames an emotional picture of what makes us tick in the Chicago Premiere of Pulitzer Prize-winning Donald Margulies’ (“Dinner With Friends”) play “Time Stands Still” which opened Saturday. “Time Stands Still” is a witty, intelligent look at what happens when ordinary life is refracted through the lens of war.

The play, although in keeping with Steppenwolf’s theme for the 2011-12 season, “Dispatches from the Homefront”, is somewhat atypical of what we have come to expect from Steppenwolf–with a more straight-forward approach than many of Steppenwolf’s more typical offerings.  In this case, this is not a bad thing as “Time Stands Still” explores some important themes including:  The present day duality of returning home from war and how we cope–and the human condition that we all face–finding purpose, meaning and a reason for living.

Each of the excellent 4-member cast represents a succinctly different perspective on what is meaningful to them–no rights or wrongs–just their raw gut feelings exposed for all to see. Watching the play unfold, we feel like we are eavesdropping on some very private moments between Sarah Goodwin (Sally Murphy), and her partner of eight years, James Dodd (Randall Newsome).

James has brought Sarah home from a hospital in Germany where she nearly lost her life after being injured by a roadside bomb.  James, a war journalist himself, had returned early from the war after suffering a breakdown and now feels guilty for leaving Sarah on her own. He anxiously tries to comfort Sarah who is battered but not beaten and ready to get back in the game.

In contrast, Sarah’s best friend and former lover the older editor, Richard Ehrlich (Francis Guinan) has been there, done that and is now looking for some changes in his own life.  He has found a match with a much younger companion Mandy Bloom (Kristina Valada-Viars) who initially comes across as a bimbo but is developed into valid character as the play continues.  Guinan plays his role masterfully and with tenderness and understanding as he knows he is walking a tightrope with his liberal friends who initially think girlfriend Mandy is just a mid-life crisis.   He is especially touching as he defends Mandy and attempts to keep her from embarrassing herself in front of his friends.

The show moves at its own pace under the artful direction by Austin Pendleton who is spot-on giving the material the chance it needs to resonate.  The action takes place in James and Sarah’s funky loft in Williamsburg–an excellent realistic design by Walt Spangler.

Each of the four characters speak often conflicting and sometimes surprising points of view, each valid, none easily dismissed. In the end, Sarah who is caught off-guard by James’s desire for family and by the simple domestic life pursued by Richard, her editor must make a decision.  Will she settle into a “normal” life,  or will her  addiction to the drama and chaos of war be too strong to ignore?


Tickets are available at the box office at 1650 N. Halsted or online.
Regular Run: $20 – $78.
20 for $20: Twenty $20 tickets are available at Audience Services beginning at 11 am on the day of each performance (1 pm for Sunday performances).
Rush Tickets: Half-price and $15 student rush tickets are available one hour before each show.
Student Discounts: $15 student tickets are available online in advance using promo code: “TIME15” (Limit 2 tickets. Must present a valid student ID for each ticket).

Location and parking.

Steppenwolf Upstairs Theatre, 1650 N. Halsted St., 312 335-1650. Steppenwolf is located near all forms of public transportation and is wheelchair accessible.  Street and lot parking are available.

Steppenwolf’s 2011/12 season.

Dispatches from the Homefront, explores how everyday lives are touched by war.  In each of the five plays, war exerts a pressure—sometimes centrally, sometimes obliquely—on the lives of the characters—and moves them to action.  The plays are alive with the humor, the tenderness and the urgency of lives struggling to find home.
The production team for Time Stands Still includes: Walt Spangler (scenic design), Rachel Anne Healy (costume design), Keith Parham (lighting design) and Josh Schmidt (sound design and original music).  Additional credits include: Erica Daniels (casting), Michelle Medvin (stage manager) and Kathleen Petroziello (assistant stage manager).

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